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In the U. S. and sometimes in Canada, food banks don't typically give food direct to the hungry. Instead they act as warehouses, supplying front-line agencies like this Californian soup kitchen. (Picture taken in 2009, and shows members of the United States Navy serving visitors. ) The world's first food bank was St. Mary's Food Bank in Phoenix, Arizona, founded by John van Hengel in 1967. According to sociology professor Janet Poppendieck, hunger within the US was widely considered to be a solved problem until the mid-1960s. By the mid-sixties, several states had ended the free distribution of federal food surpluses, instead providing an early form of food stamps which had the benefit of allowing recipients to choose food of their liking, rather than having to accept whatever happened to be in surplus at the time. However, there was a minimum charge and some people could not afford the stamps, leading to severe hunger. One response from American society to the rediscovery of hunger was to step up the support provided by soup kitchens and similar civil society food relief agencies – some of these dated back to the Great Depression and earlier. In 1965, while volunteering for a community dining room, van Hengel learned that grocery stores often had to throw away food that had damaged packaging or was near expiration. He started collecting that food for the dining room but soon had too much for that one program. He thought of creating a central location from which any agency can receive donations. Described as a classic case of "if you build it they will come", the first food bank was created with the help of St. Mary's Basilica, which became the namesake of the organization. Food banks spread across the United States, and to Canada. By 1976, van Hengel had established the organization known today as Feeding America. As of the early 21st century, their network of over 200 food banks provides support for 90,000 projects. Other large networks exist such as AmpleHarvest. org, created by CNN Hero and World Food Prize nominee Gary Oppenheimer which lists more than 8,200 food pantries (1 out of every 5 in America) across all 50 states that can utilize overproduction of fresh produce.

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